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Lower Hutt mayoral candidate calls for full investigation into retirement complex plumbing - 'It isn't good enough'

By Phil Pennington of rnz.co.nz

A Lower Hutt mayoral candidate is calling for a full investigation into a retirement complex with substandard plumbing.

Councillor Campbell Barry said if he were mayor he'd introduce a "no-surprises" policy around such important matters.

An audit done in mid-2018 and obtained this week by RNZ found mass non-compliant plumbing at the Woburn Apartments which the council signed off.

It was an operational issue that he had referred to his chief executive when he found out in February this year, Mayor Ray Wallace said.

Mr Barry said he would expect council staff to brief him much earlier in cases like this.

The mayor should have launched an investigation straight away, after an investigating plumber warned him there were serious health hazards, Mr Barry said.

"Because, it isn't good enough what has happened and we need to know what role council could have played to ensure that this didn't happen and it won't happen again in the future," the mayoral aspirant said.

The council's chief executive Jo Miller, who has been in the job just two months, has not responded to RNZ about whether she would begin an inquiry.

Mr Wallace refused to be interviewed.

The council has said it won't inspect the repairs to the plumbing, partly to avoid liability for them and partly because it said it was legally unable to do so because it had already issued a Code Compliance Certificate.

The Masonic Villages Trust has relied on Virtual Plumbing, which installed the original defective plumbing, to do some repairs including crucial sealing off of pipes open to sewers. This was being independently monitored, it said.

However, the list of repair contractors and consultants does not appear to include a registered craftsman plumber.

The trust aims to build another complex in Wainuiomata.

"We absolutely need to have reassurances that that is built in a way that is safe for our elderly, for our seniors and our community, that's absolutely crucial," Mr Barry said.

The trust has refused all comment since issuing a single statement on Tuesday, other than to tell RNZ that it was not "at the point of selecting contractors" for Wainuiomata and won't do so until the end of the year.

Woburn Apartments in Lower Hutt. Source: rnz.co.nz